The NHL trade deadline has come and gone and many teams have been busy, including the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Well, not exactly. While other teams were making statements through their trades, the Leafs made only two significant trades before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. E.T. deadline. While they may be minuscule trades compared to what other team’s were doing, they were still something.
Reviewing the Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Deadline Moves
Should the Leafs have done more? Should they have done less? Well let’s take a look at what they did do, and how that may pan out for the Leafs going forward.
Trade 1: Acquiring Brian Boyle from the Tampa Bay Lightning
The first trade the Leafs made approaching the trade deadline this week took place on Monday.
The Leafs announced they have acquired F Brian Boyle from Tampa in exchange for F Byron Froese and a 2nd round draft pick in 2017. #tmltalk
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) February 27, 2017
Now this trade can be interpreted in many ways. The Leafs were looking for a strong third or fourth line centre to help in their push for the playoffs. At the same time, Lou Lamoriello had made it clear that he doesn’t want to make trades that would jeopardize the future of this team.
Well looking at this trade you may think that’s exactly what he’s gone and done. The Leafs are rebuilding. A second round pick for a team trying to build through the draft is very important and is valued pretty highly.
However, the fact of the matter is that this year’s draft class is significantly weaker than in previous years. Outside of the top three, there aren’t supposed to be any projected stars available in the first round, or at least any that would be ready to play within a few years. The second round is expected to be even worse.
Yes, there always may be the chance of finding a diamond in the rough, but at this point, a second round draft pick this year would take some time to develop anyways, most likely longer than the Leafs expected three-to-five year window for this rebuild.
With this said, the Leafs seem willing to take a gamble on this in return for a stronger team that should be able to compete in the playoffs. Let’s face it, the Leafs already have their future core almost set in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and a bunch of other young prospects waiting to bloom for the team. They have played great this year, taking the Leafs from dead last to a playoff spot in one season, and they definitely deserve the reward of being able to compete properly in the playoffs.
Trade 2: Acquiring Eric Fehr, Steven Oleksy and a Fourth Round Pick
The Leafs second trade came just moments away from the deadline.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 1, 2017
Now I’ve seen a lot of people already try to critique this trade. Many people are questioning the need for Fehr, since the Leafs fourth line already seems secured.
The fact of the matter is that Fehr is not the key piece in this trade, it’s the fourth rounder. A cap dump had to be taken on by the Leafs to make this go through with Pittsburgh. Much like when the Leafs acquired Brooks Laich, Connor Carrick and a second rounder from the Washington Capitals last season for Daniel Winnik and a fifth round pick, a cap dump had to be thrown in (Brooks Laich).
Fehr will most likely be a lot like Laich, who may get some playing time for the Leafs, may get waived, or may spend his time benched or assigned to the Toronto Marlies. At the time of Laich’s acquisition, he had another year left on his contract. The same applies to Fehr now, whose contract ends after the 2017-18 season.
The Leafs can afford Fehr’s contract. And if he’s not waived or bought out by the time his contract expires, the Leafs will most likely just let him walk in free agency. He might even get to play and prove himself useful if the Leafs suffer an injury or two.
Overall, this was a good trade, as it’s essentially Corrado for a fourth round pick. Frank Corrado has not been able to play for the Leafs all season (only two games played with zero points all season). It’s not even that he has been injured. Mike Babcock and Lamoriello both seem to think highly of him. He’s a good player, but he just does not seem to be the right fit for the Leafs roster this season.
It seemed he wasn’t going to work out for the Leafs this season or moving forward, so the team was able to flip him into some sort of a decent return. A fourth rounder is about the going price for a young defenceman of his calibre, and the Leafs were able to nail this trade.
Final Report Card
So based on these two trades, how did the Leafs do this trade deadline?
My grade: B+
The Leafs have a good core. They’re a rebuilding team that seems to be working. They shouldn’t feel the need to change much, and they also definitely shouldn’t trade away young prospects and draft picks as they are crucial components for a successful rebuild.
The Leafs were able to do this successfully, while still making moves that made their team better.
The only reason as to why I am not giving them an A is because I still felt as if there are pieces that could have been swapped for prospects or draft picks to help out in the rebuild.
Players like Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak, both third pairing defenceman who have been struggling this season, could have been flipped. Their contracts expire at the end of this season, so other teams could have used them as rental players. I’m sure the Leafs could have easily replaced them with players like Alexey Marchenko or Martin Marincin. Roman Polak was able to fetch two second rounders from the San Jose Sharks last season, so it makes one think what could he have fetched this season?
Other than that, the Leafs had a good trade deadline. They didn’t overspend, and they didn’t have a need to. They’ll be well on their way to becoming a successful team going forward either way.
BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 25: Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello attends the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)